And A Bullet Came Out Of The Sky

Joel Golby


a short story





“HURAULB–” he said. “HURA–AUGH.” Vomiting, he was vomiting. He was making vomiting noises, out of his mouth and through his nose. “Sorry about the vomiting,” he said, into the camera. “It’s just, you know. It’s the agonising pain.”

Earlier, a bullet came down from the sky. It was a tall bullet, maybe as tall as a building, and at its thickest it was maybe as wide as a swimming pool, Olympic-sized. Experts agreed it seemed to be some sort of ship or vessel sent from another world into ours to kill us all and mush us down to dust, and the high, vibrating hum it seemed to emit from within did little to dispel that. People lit candles and sang. People watched TV and hoped.

The Bullet had landed, just outside Buckingham Palace, point down and on a Dutch tourist holidaying in London, severing him mostly in two, although he was – somehow – still cheerfully alive and game for an interview. News teams from around the world had gathered to form a respectful 500 yards-away semi-circle around The Pinned Man and The Bullet, aware always of the threat of intergalactic lasers, and sent videocameras taped to remote control dollies in and up and in to interview him.

“So I am just standink here,” The Pinned Man said, vomit slowly seeping into his flouro-print cagoule, “And I am wavink through the gate towards the Queen, and – craziest thing – a bullet the height of a building falls down upon me, severink me almost in two.”


“Yah, like from out of the clear blue sky.”


“Oh, agonising. Agonising pain. I am leaking basically all of the bad body liquids out of the middle of me. I would say it is ‘delirious’ pain, if that is a thing in England?”


“Yes, yes. Very grave outlook for me, diagnosis-wise. I am basically hopink this broadcast is not goink out live in your country, because there is a 40% chance I will just die at any one moment.”


“I think they come in peace.”




His uncle was firing bullets into a tree trunk. “HYAH!” his uncle said, every time he took a shot. “HYAH! HYAH! HYAH!” He was wearing his yellow protective visor and his full camouflage, which seemed like overkill for hunting what was essentially an already fallen tree in a field six clicks out of Nantwich. Ravens flocked into the sky.

“These pastyback fuckers ain’t getting in on my territory,” he told him, while driving home, while swerving under a bridge. “I’m going to go down there and tell them where to put their gigantic bullet the size of a building.” Trees blurred past him in the rain. “Going to tell them to put it right up their inhuman asses.”

His Jeep was from the ’60s, and green with it. He had often spent lazy afternoons watching his uncle – his uncle still lived with his grandparents, despite being just the wrong side of 40 – tinker with the Jeep, oil trickling out from the heart of it, messing the otherwise immaculate driveway all up, all white fences and raked gravel, all tidy lawns and gnome furnishings, all pools of unhealthy oil like treacle. More than a few times he had seen the top 30% of his uncle’s buttcrack, peeking from out of his fatigues as he buried his head deep in the engine, tinkering with the block. “This baby’ll run on anything,” he used to say, patting the bonnet. “Oil. Diesel. Sweat. This right here’s an apocalypse vehicle.” Like most deranged people, his uncle pronounced the ‘h’ in ‘vehicle’.

His uncle did not have a gun license. His uncle did not have any form of training. His uncle was – unbeknownst to his uncle – on a number of police watchlists after downloading The Anarchist’s Cookbook, especially after he did it twice (his uncle’s father, his Peepums, deleted the first .pdf to free up more memory on the house computer to install some obtuse new version of Solitaire). His uncle’s weekend paintball team was called ‘The Eliminators’. His uncle’s weekend paintball team had printed custom boilersuits up especially. The self-titled nickname stencilled on the back of his uncle’s custom boilersuit read, ‘The Wolf’.

“I’ve been waiting for this my entire life,” he said. “My entire life.” His uncle’s face was puce and veiny, his moustache grimily blonde. He was smoking a cigarette and wafting the smoke in front of his own face, ostensibly to get it out of his eyes. His rear mirror had wrapped around it a wad of pine air fresheners in various degrees of despair. His backseat had on it a well-thumbed copy of Razzle. He once had his jaw broken by the left-hook of an especially sturdy barmaid.

“And you, kidda!” he said, thumping him on his back. “You’re coming with me!”




“Why,” said the Queen, “Why in fuck do I have to leave?”

“Because, m’lady, because a bullet the size of a building has landed outside.”

“What building?”

“I would guess at the HMV on Oxford Street, your… um… preciousness?”


“And, Your Highness, and there’s a high chance that said bullet will–”


“– just checking this print-out, Your Majesty, the print-out that the scientists sent over.”


“Will ‘explode in a shower of lasers’, ma’am.”


“Which and in my professional opinion, sound: ‘bad’.”


“For us. You. For you.”


“Because with respect ma’am I don’t think you’d do well against ‘a laser’.”


“‘A laser aimed directly at your face’.”


“Shall I pack you some bags?”


“And what shall I tell His Majesty Prince Phillip, your maj– um. Uh. Your… highness?”


“Your Royal Highness?”



“Can we tell him… nothing?”



The Bullet continued to do nothing but hum. Clouds turned grey then scattered to the wind. Streetlights blinked on and then, twelve hours later, off. Buses were complexly diverted around the main crash site. Fluids delivered to the front part of the Dutch man. Helicopters floated in the sky. Families pitched tents nearby. Cameramen drank sweet tea from polystyrene cups. “Hummmmmm,” The Bullet said. “Hummmmmm.”



“What do you mean, ‘Do I have a press pass’?” said the cameraman. “Of course I don’t have a fucking press pass. It’s a bullet the size of Selfridge’s. The only thing between me and said bullet is an orange plastic netting fence of the type that flaps around sadly in the wind on deserted building sites, and then you, ‘Sergeant Fucko’!”

“Sir I’m going to have to see some credentials–”

“Oh, alright. Alright. I’ll just call the PR agency in charge of all this, shall I? ‘Hi, is that Amelia at The Planet Fucking Mars? Can you put me on the list to film our new overlords when they inevitably break out of their craft and destroy us all with lasers, please? Thaaaanks!’”

“I’m not especially happy to be here either, dude.”

“What if they kill us?”

“That is the exact thing on my mind, too. That is my exact question. ‘What if they kill us?’”

“I mean, that’s a pretty realistic threat, isn’t it?”

“It feels like it is. Have you heard that ominous throb?”

“That kind of humming noise? Yes. It makes me want to cry. It makes me want to huddle. It makes me want to run into that portaloo and do a wet shit. It does not make me want to walk over there and set up a live feed for BBC Three.”

“It makes me think they’ll kill us.”

“All of us.”

“You know I’m not even getting double time, for this? When the invaders come, I’m going to be stood here, with my back to The Bullet, politely asking UFO maniacs to step two paces back for me, please. For £9.50 an hour.”



“Sorry I called you ‘Sergeant Fucko’.”

“It’s okay. It’s been a long day. We’ve all had a long day.”




So he combed neatly his hair and texted his Mammy farewell and dived fully under his bed for the shoebox full of love letters he kept there, love letters unsent and unanswered, love letters to his friend, Jenny. Because he was going to do it, now. He was going to take his learner’s permit and his uncle’s Peugeot and drive over there, goddammit, drive over there and tell her he loved her. Fuck you, school! Fuck you, society! Light the fire, it’s over! There are no rules any more!

He had always loved Jenny, since he had first met her, with her eyes. He remembered when he’d bought her a Girls Aloud hits CD + digi-download pack for her birthday and she gave him a chaste little hug that made his palms damp. He remembered that time they just sat there watching Pretty Woman and eating popcorn and she’d referred to it as ‘gals night’. And what in the dang there were five other cars in the driveway?

“Hey,” he said, when she opened the door. “I, uh… I love you, and stuff.”

“Ohh,” she said. “The Bullet thing?” He nodded at the sky and looked sad. “Yeah, Brad got here earlier and said. Also Lance, plus Warren.”

“Hey Warren, Lance.”


“So anyway you wanna come in? I put out cheese snacks.” Of course she put out cheese snacks. That’s why he loved her. So they all spent the evening watching The Bullet smoulder on TV, while Jenny kissed on Brad, until it was time to go home again, fingertips cheesy, hearts aghast.




They had run out of Percy Pigs, and Reversy Percies, too. Supplies for the road trip were running: low. “Can we–?” he asked. “No,” said his uncle. “Emergency supplies only.” He turned to look at the reserves of dried noodles, jerked beef, granola bars and drinking water in the back seat, and his stomach grumbled, sadly, evitably.

“You see,” his uncle said. “You see, this is Citizen Power, this. When we meet up with the army – ho, ho ho ho, when we meet up with the army–


“You seen this fucking bullet thing?”

“‘Have I seen this fucking bullet thing?’ Have I seen this fucking bullet thing. Of course I’ve seen this fucking bullet thing. It’s a bullet! The size of the Zara on Oxford Street!”

“I was just–”

“The big one, at the top! Not the little one in the middle!”

“I know, I just–”


“I was just asking–”

“I’ve seen the news! I watch the news! I am the highest ranking officer in the entire tittyfucking Army. I get bulletins. So yes: I have seen this fucking bullet thing!”

“I guess you are taking this all: quite badly, then.”

“You could say that. You could say that, yes.”

“So anyways.”


“I was just calling because some of the boys are asking and I thought you might know: what… what are we doing?”

“With the bullet thing?”

“With the bullet thing.”

“You mean…?”

“Like: are we… I mean have we put any tanks, or whatever, in place? Any snipers? Some of those rough dogs we have to sniff out drugs and bombs?”

“Q. Have you seen the bullet?”


“You know how it is smooth, like a pebble. No grooves or rivulets in evidence. No edges or bevels to go on. Thing’s as slippery as a… a… slip– it’s slippery, alright? It’s edgeless.”


“So way I see it, I don’t see a way in.”


“And I don’t know about you Farnham, but I quite mortally fear other worldly lasers.”

“Also have a rather trouser-ruining fear of lasers, Sir–”

“Yah. So I don’t want to send any bombs at it in case of laser rebuttal.”

“Once ruined a very pleasant family barbeque when my son shone one of those keyring-sized laser pointers at my crotch from afar.”


“Pool hasn’t been refilled since, if I am honest.”

“Yes and seeing as I figure this thing is full of lasers, that colours my plan, somewhat.”



“So anyway.”


“I am thinking our current plan is… we do… nothing?”

“I am cool with that.”


“I am so cool with that you wouldn’t believe.”


“Alright, then. Poker on Thursday?”

“Poker on Thursday.”


“–then they’ll see us and be all, ‘Well hot and damn! The cavalry has arrived!’ and we’ll join them, and we’ll be front lines, and then POW! POW! POW! Those little invader suckers are going to pour out of their bullet-like craft and be mowed down like pigs. And as a man who has watched every video of pigs being shot that YouTube has to offer, I can tell you that that is an uncool scene to be on the blunt end of. A very uncool scene.”


“Just… just really uncool.”

Spit was both coming out of the corners of his mouth in a froth, as well as sticking like elastic between his two thin lips.

“But: POW! Yeah? I’ve shot one. POW! The army’s shot one. POW POW! Two in a row, headshots! The Army General comes up to me. ‘Luke,’ he says, ‘Uncle Luke, this is a grenade. The Army has decided you are ready for it’. An–and I already know how to use it, and then SHA–BOOM: Explosion! They’ve gone home!”


“We’ll probably get medals or something, kid. Fuckin’ medals!”


“I’ll come back and be all, ‘Look at this, Sharon! Look at my fuckin’ MEDAL! What has that dickhead Shane ever done for you, then? What medals has he got? Medals in ‘working at a garage’? Medals in ‘fathering two kids by two different women’? No such medal exists, Shazz!’, and she’ll admit I was right an–”


“Anyway, before all that: we’ve got to teach you how to shoot.”




As soon as The Bullet had landed and the dust and Dutch guts had settled, an emergency summit was called, of scientists and behaviourologists and one of those chicks who lives with apes, and politicians and aides and world leaders and sign language interpreters. Their mission, which they had all chosen to accept and signed the requisite legal paperwork to consent to, was this: figure out a way to communicate with the invaders, should they exit The Bullet, should they mow down the Queen with their lasers.

“I think we all agree,” said one scientist, “that whoever we send to commune with the invaders–”

Potential invaders.”

“Potential invaders, yes. Anyway, whoever we send to make ‘first contact’–”

“A person who, if no volunteers come forward–”

“And no volunteers will come forward–”

“If no volunteers come forward will instead be chosen by lottery, from the country’s stock of life-sentence prisoners, preferably one without too many knuckle tattoos or with the greying, haunted look of someone who long ago sold his remaining fragments of hope for the assorted fruit cups and yeasts necessary to brew a thin pallid wine in a soiled toilet–”

“We want our representative to make a good impression in the four to six seconds he or she would spend ‘not zapped by lasers’, is what we are saying here.”

“And so anyway, what we are proposing that we, the Committee Dú Comminique Dos Potentiales Invaders (C.D.C.D.P.I., assembled), that what we do is whittle down the possible human gamut of opening gestures down to a shortlist of five that our ‘volunteer’ can approach The Bullet with, presuming of course that the lead-lined vest, helmet and shinpads that they are wearing allow the required range of movement to perform–”

“Which, for the record, rules out ‘The Friendly Wave’.”

“So let’s kick things off with a fun one: ‘The Open-Armed Gesture’.”

“It says: hello. It says: welcome. It says: I am – unless I have a weapon concealed in a holster on my ankle or a samurai-style blade running the length of my spine, the handle obscured by my skull – unarmed.”

“Anyone have any cultural objections to ‘The Open-Armed Gesture’? Arabia, we cool? Democratic Republic of Congo, we sweet? France, you okay with that? Your lot always have a problem with simple gestures.”


“Let the record show that the French representative just flipped at me the bird.”


“Okay, so ‘The Open-Armed Gesture’ flies through unappos–”


“Yes, Behavioural Science, O’Brien.”

“I have a minor issue with the O.A.G.”

“We seriously calling it that? Okay: what?”

“It’s just, to me, an O.A.G. says: ‘Here comes a hug. Get ready for some intimacy. Some arms gonna writhe around you, right now. Don’t sweat too much. Please don’t sweat too much. Why are you sweating–’”


“‘– You’ll have to hug back. Not too hard. Not too hard. Hands at an appropriate height. Do not touch the butt. Do not touch the butt. Count three then let go. That is a social acceptable hug. Hope like hell she doesn’t start a Facebook group about how weird you are’.”



“That is what an O.A.G. says to me.”



“It’s always O’Brien, it’s always O’Brien. WHO HURT YOU, O’BRIEN? WHO HURT YOU?”


“Can we – FOR ONCE – assume the invaders are not as much of a social hand grenade as you are?”


“Meeting adjourned. Meeting adjourned until the morning. O’Brien, get some sleep. Everyone else, find me a prisoner. God–motherfucking–dammit.”



And so The Bullet came down from the sky, and the Darlington UFO Watchers And Other Worldly Visitor Welcoming Team did get into their minivan, and did paint the initials of their club upon the side in rivulets of black emulsion, and did pack corned beef sandwiches with spread, and did argue over whether they would play Fleetwood Mac’s Greatest Hits (1988) or Fleetwood Mac’s The Very Best Of Fleetwood Mac (2002) on the way there, and did park up and pitch tents just yards from the site of The Bullet, and some of them had tinfoil on their heads. And there they did stay, sleeping in shifts, tuning and retuning AM radios, and painting placards saying such as ‘We Welcome Our Otherworldly Visitors!’ and, ‘HELLO To Our Intergalactic Brethren!’ and, ‘Darlington Loves Our New And Unearthly Rulers!’, which they would hold up and shout under until they got onto international TV.

“What do you think they’ll look like?”

“Eggs. Big pale eggs. With legs and eyes. Like Honey Boo-Boo.”


“No hair.”

It was late at night, and the rain whipped against the tents so much that no single member of the D.U.W.A.O.W.V.W.T. could sleep – because of the rain, and because of the eerily prescient hum – so instead they held torches under their throats and sat, in warm scarves and sleeping bags, possibly for the last time, possibly for the last.

“How tall do you think they’ll be?”

“Seven foot.”

“Why seven?”

“Because when I was abducted–”

“You weren’t abducted, Steven!”

“Then how else do you explain that lost weekend in Blackpool? Then how else do you explain that anal tear?”

“You were drinking a lot of Drambuie back then, Steven. I’ve never seen anyone have a ‘breakfast Drambuie’. You were very grizzled, at the time.”

“So when I was abducted–”


“When I was abducted, I saw them, and they were seven foot.”

“Were they all stood next to Early Learning Centre-type height charts while probing you with a speculum, then?”


“You weren’t abducted–”

“Fuck off! I was abducted!”

(Let the record show at this point that a scuffle broke out and a stack of cheese sandwiches wrapped lovingly and sweatily in tin foil were torn apart and scattered and part of a tent was upended and the word pairs “shit-tit!” and “motherfucker!” were heard repeatedly at volume and a Colombian TV station has all the footage from the outside and it is basically, ohmigod, you have to watch it, it’s like, this year’s Gangnam Style.)







“Mum?” she said. “Dad?”

“In here,” her Mammy said. She had twisted in her seat to wave a little wave. “We’re in the front room.”

The back door opened into the front room so yeah, she figured.

“Hi,” she said. “Wh–why aren’t you at the rec centre?”

“The what?”

“The rec centre, Mum. In the middle of town. Camping beds. Flasks of coffee. Suppositories. Why aren’t you there?”

“Have you had your dinner?”

“I’ve had my dinner. Why aren’t you at the rec centre?”

The TV showed helicopter views of The Bullet, a crowd scattered around it like ants. Smoke still steamed from its centre. Remnants of Dutchman still bled out and down from the middle of the Victoria Memorial. Distantly, a large area of the St. James Park campsite smouldered.

“What did you have for dinner?”

“I had sausages for dinner. Why aren’t you at the rec centre?”

“Just sausages?”

“And mash. Why aren’t you at the rec centre?”

“Ach, that’s not dinner. Are you still hungry for a plate?”

“I am not hungry for a plate. Why aren’t you at the rec centre?”

“I’ll fix you a plate.”

And so while her mammy fixed her a plate – roast pork, some glazed carrots, tatties, cabbage and bread – her pa looked up from ferociously polishing a single black church shoe long enough to say hi. “And why,” he said. “In fuck. Would we go. To the rec centre?”

“Alan,” her mammy said. “Language.” Beep, beep, microwave.

“We’ve got everything we need right here,” he said, gesturing the rug, the hearth, the 48″ TV, the retractable kitchen table with doilyette tablecloth, the Stairmaster, The Pictures Of The Kids. “Why would we go to this, ‘rec centre’.”

“Because,” she said. “Because, Dad, it’s safer.”

He stood up in his two socked feet.

“Punch me,” he said.


“Punch me.” He was flexing to his full stooped height now, his old fighting pose, geriatrically ducking, diving. His right hand, unprotected; his left wearing a church shoe like a glove. “Punch me in the face.”


“See if you can.”

“I know I can punch you in the face. I know I can punch you in the face. I’ve been able to do it for years, even before you fell off that ladder. This proves nothing.”

“Punch me in the face, then.”


“Prove I’m weak. Prove I’m feeble.”

“I’m not saying you’re weak and feeble, Da,” she said. “I just worry about you two. Mum, won’t you feel safer at the rec centre?”

“The what?”

“The rec centre.”

“Punch me.”

“What’s that?”

“It’s in town.”

“What’s that?”

“It’s a safe place.”

“Hit me. You can’t hit me.”


“You can’t!”

“Dad, I do boxercise.”

“I don’t know what that is.”

“Hi-tempo aerobics combined wi– listen, I could punch you if I want. That’s all you need to know.”

Don’t you punch your father!”

“I’m not going to punch him!”


“I– jeez. If I punch you, will you go to the rec centre?”


“Will you?”

“Well you can’t punch me, so.”

“Will you?”

“If you think you can punch me, I will go to the rec centre.”





“He’s out, he’s spark out!”

“He’ll be fine.”

“He’s bleeding out his ears!”

“He’ll be fine. Mum, have you got any smelling salts?”


“Get them. And pack a bag.”

“What about your plate?”



“I’ll eat the plate. Then I’m driving you rec-ward.”

“In your nice new Audi?”

“In my nice new Audi.”




“Yeth I’m quite convinthed that I have, in fact, made contact with the invadersth, via the medium of my ham radio what is often also used to lorry driversth to communicate the number and severity of their daily murders to other lorry driversth.”

“And what did they say, the invaders?”

“They said that they come nominally in peathce, but that they will dethstroy us with lasers if we don’t all renouncth our sins by Tuesday week.

“And what particular sins do we have to renounce?”

“All of them, all the thsins.”

“All of them.”

“All the main ones.”

“We had another guy on the show earlier who says the invaders spoke to him telepathically and said the main sin we had to renounce was– was it ‘coveting a neighbour’s wife’, Phil?”

“Yes it was, Holly.”

“Were the ham radio outsiders any more specific in their non-sinning demands?”


“In their renouncement announcement?”

“Um. Uh. Homothexualth.”

“What, sorry?”


“Still not getting it–”


“They will destroy us all with lasers unless we stop ‘being gay’?”


“Right well here’s Alison Hammond with details about how you could win £10,000 and a trip to Las Vegas! Alison – over to you.”



The Mayor was blonde and stupid, the Mayor was pale and wan, the Mayor was a badly-poached egg rolled in downy fluff. The skin around the Mayor’s nose was defined by early childhood exposure to port and shortbread biscuit. “This Bullet thing,” he said, clicking one finger, twirling a wiffle bat in his hand. “On the scale of ‘one to bad’, how bad is it?”

“Going to need some context, here, Sir. You mean ,’How bad is The Bullet for the human race’?”


“Do you mean, ‘How bad is it for that trapped Dutch man, who earlier today held his kidney like a newborn for a telescopic photo opp with The Sun newspaper’?”


“‘How bad is it for our aviation industry, who are losing millions each and every second diverting planes under and around the resultant and eerily agile smoke cloud’?”

“No. No. No, no, no. I mean, ‘How bad is it for me, personally, with an eye on the Mayoral elections next year, which pre-Bullet seemed to have be down as an easy win’?”

His aide – young, with those kind of thin-framed glasses that suggests he legitimately knew how to use Microsoft Excel – checked a clipboard, consulted a fax machine.

“Not really been high on the list, priority-wise, what with the mass evacuation from east and south-east London and the gigantic smoke cloud and the swarms of vultures and the ring of steel erected around The Bullet but in front of the press–”


“Are you aware of any of these procedures, Sir?”

“… Yes.”

“What is the name of just one of the operations put in place?”

“Operation… Stop… Bullet?”

“Incredibly, actually, yes.”

“And so how are we doing, poll-wise?”

“Public opinion has dipped somewhat lately seeing as you have done very, like, little about the majorly huge bulle–”

“I opened a tug boat museum in Finchley. I kissed a tiny child in front of a bridge.”

“Again neither of these things really addressed the ongoing problem of The Big M&S On Oxford Street-sized Bullet Outside Of Buckingham Palace, Eerily Humming, Its Sound Slowly Forming A Heartbeat–”

“Is that what we’re calling it now?”

“Sí, Senor.”

“Fucking hell.”



Gravel crunches, footsteps skitter, the door knocks. “Yeah you alright mate you want to buy a TV?”


“Do you,” the other entrepreneur said. “Want to. Buy a. TV.” He was holding a TV, in a box. Flatscreen. Fifty-six inch. Toshiba.


“Going to level with you here, mate. Got a bit carried away after the first moment of impact from the old…” He smudged his nose quickly with his finger, looked around. “The old ‘Bullet The Size Of Marble Arch’.”

“Went and looted Curry’s,” said the other. “Bricked it, vanful, drove off.”

“Sort of predicting mass terror, if we’re honest with you, mate. Bit more chaos than we are currently now experiencing. Acted more on fear and adrenaline than a kind of can-hoarding logic.”

“Instinctively gutted Curry’s for iPads, pal. Like: Fight or Flight.”

“Hence: this big fuck-off TV.”

“It’s quite a big TV.”

“It is quite a big TV, yes. Bit of a burden now, if we’re honest. Already an HD-ready albatross around our collective neck. Try carrying four-and-a-half foot of Toshiba around with you, see how you like it.”

“So what we’re asking for is £150 – straight up – or the equivalent in post-apocalyptic supplies.”

“Your drinking waters, your tinned pears, your noodle blocks the size of a Labrador dog.”

“The hum is growing more ominous by the hour, mate, so it’s a sort of one-time-only deal.”

“Why would I need big TV, though? I’ll probably be dead in days. Hours. I might die right here and now, obliterated by lasers while talking to you.”



“Final… little… treat… to yourself?”



Army fatigues, sun-bleached and worn, nudey cards and canteens of rum. A tank, they were in a tank. They were the Army Reserve and they were sat in a tank. They had mounted a projectile into the turret and aimed it carefully, carefully, ever so carefully at The Bullet, and then… nothing… had really happened… like… for a while? Tents had sprung up around them. Belgian news reporters sat on their caterpillar tracks in search of the perfect shot. They were pretty sure someone had painted a juvenile approximation of a hairy dick on the side of the tank while they were in there, waiting. There were no immediate plans to scrub it away.

“So you’re saying you would rather live 100 years with four limbs than a thousand years with none?”

“If given the option by a genie, yes.”

“What are you going to do with your legs when you’re a 95-year-old?”

“More than you are going to do with no legs at, like, 400! ”

“But consider this, consider this: consider robot people.”


“You know, like, robot arms. Robot legs. Robot people.”


“You see them walking slowly and agonisingly along slow-moving running machines in hospital physiotherapy units–”


“Paraplegics, yeah! So think about it, listen: in 20 years paraplegics will be able to peg a football over Tower Bridge.”


“They’ll be able to crush a refrigerator like a Tango can.”


“Pneumatics, man! Hydraulics!”

“You’re saying in two or three-hundred years you’re going to be some sort of robo-limbed pensioner, throwing tumble dryers over buses and kicking trees like twigs into the sea?”


“Two centuries after your last unassisted erection, you’re going to be like Robocop, but way less continent and way more aimlessly mad?”

“I… y–yeah, man.”

“I think, on the whole, I would rather be what the French refer to as ‘dead’.”



This of course all being academic, because the hum that turned into a heartbeat turned into a rhythm, and pulsed now with an urgency that said, between each strong beat, that said, ‘Hey,’ that said, ‘I’m coming for you, Earth’, that said, ‘Kiss goodbye to your robo-limbs and erections, baby, ’cause You. Are. Dead.”




“And we’ve been getting dozens of tweets and texts today, thanks everyone for calling in. Alan from Bath says, ‘I for one think our other-worldly rulers come in the spirit of peace & friendship’, while Mary from Rotherham would rather drown her kids that bow to our undoubtedly egg-headed overlords. More on that after the break!”




“What you do,” his uncle said, adjusting his shoulders just so, “is breathe slowly, breathe deep, and squeeze the trigger lovingly, like a friend.”


“Or a tit.”

“I’m 12 years old, Uncle Luke.”

“Like a friend.”

And so he focussed, and so he looked and focussed. He squinted, right down the barrel, and inhaled, breathing in the smell, the metallic tang, the smoky residue of gunpowder, still steaming out of the barrel after his uncle let off a few celebratory shots into the air, and considered the light wind and the rain, dewy beads of cold water along the length of his rifle, in his hair and down his trousers, and did focus on the tin can, five of which were balanced precariously on a dry stone wall in a boggy field just outside of–

“I can’t,” he breathed. “I can’t do it.”

“Here, sissydick,” his uncle said, grabbing the gun. “Let me show you.”

“The safety–”






The campsite was ablaze now, the campsite was on fire. Earlier, thousands of tents had assembled around The Bullet, scattering into St. James Park, lining The Mall. Hundreds of thousands of Coke cans were crushed into the dirt; clumps of used wet wipes blew to the wind. Much of the grass had been tamped down to mud or sizzled to dust. The campsite was alive, like a lung, exhaling air and detritus and the damp vinegar smell of unwashed humans, Portaloos going from pristine to harrowing to turned over and jumped on in just hours, a kind of feverish loss of humanity throughout. And then the fire started: slow, at first, singeing the cheese sandwiches and sleeping bags of the Darlington Collective, but then spreading, slow and steady, glowing and flickering and spreading. And then, pulsing out of the centre of The Bullet, strong and blue and clear, there appeared a door. And this seemed ‘ungood’.




She was pneumatic and sad in a corset, suspenders and thong. “Darren,” she said. “Do I really have to do this tonight?”

“Do what?”

“Present late-night softcore chatline TV programming on an obtuse, high-number channel.”

“Why would you not want to do it? Are you… you know. The Curse.”

“I was thinking more ‘The Imminent Threat Of Death From Lasers’ more than anything, Daz.”

“Oh, The Bullet Thing.”

“The Bullet Thing.”

He was the colour of a hammered thumb. His hair was slick and greased. His eyes were the eyes of a weasel. He used those condoms that numb your dick so you can ‘plough longer’. He actually said ‘plough’. The box actually said ‘plough’ on them. If he drove you home in his 06 plate Mercedes, he would – without fail – say, “You know you can… uh… ‘operate the gearstick’, if you want to.” She did not want to spend her final hours on this earth with this man. She did not want to succumb to lasers with this man. There is always the chance, with lasers, that their charred ashes could become bonded to each other for eternity. The dust whispers to you in the wind. It whispers, ‘Work the shaft, cup the balls’.

This prospect did not strike her as being ‘a good prospect’.

“You know a door-shaped object opened up on it today.”

“Did it?”

“A flash glowed hot and bright and there, about three-quarters of the way up, a sort of portal shape was singed into the side of it.”

“Is that why I can’t get any phone reception today?”

“Yeah. What with a lot of people making final, hysterical farewell calls to their families.”

“And the networks are blocked up?”

“And the networks are blocked up.”

“Oh fuck it, then,” Darren said, spinning in his leather-look desk chair, spitting with disgust. “Fuck it. We’re not going to have any call-ins tonight, what with that going on.”

And so this is how the world ends: not with a bang, but with a former carphone salesman pressing a button to shut the late-night sex channels down.




“OW,” said his uncle. “OW OW OW OW OW.”

He looked down in the mud, where the clotted residue of his uncle’s right bollock lay, charred and rotten and broke. ‘I did this,’ he thought. ‘I did this thing.’ It looked like mince someone had trod on with a vengeance. ‘I am responsible in some way for this’. It looked like an egg someone had cracked before it was laid. A blood vessel towed through the mud. A lychee that proved too hard to peel. “OW,” his uncle said. “OW OW OW OW OW.”

‘I shot him,’ he thought. ‘I shot his bollock off.’

“MY BOLLOCK,” his uncle said. “YOU SHOT MY BOLLOCK OFF!”








“Yes, aide,” he said. “What is it?”

“A door-shaped object has opened on the front of it, Sir.”

“Of what?”

“The Bullet”

“Haha, right! That!”

“Are we… going… to… do… anything?”

“What would you suggest?”

“I would suggest maybe a… press conference?”

“Set up a pedestal outside The Big M&S On Oxford Street–sized Bullet From Outer Space or whatever, then. I’ll put a big blue tie on.”




“How friendly is: ‘Hands Around The Face Like A Sunflower, Slow Approach’?”

“What you are essentially describing, Tibet, is ‘jazz hands’.”




“Coffee or tea, Mr Samson?”

“Kid, come here’n try’n punch me.”

“Coffee or tea?”

“You can’t hit me.”

“Please, Mr Samson. Please stop asking me to hit you.”


“Please just sit in your bunk and pray for a quick death.”



“… and here’s Alison Hammond with details on how to win £10,000 worth of canned goods plus an all expenses-paid trip to a secure bunker in the Arizona desert. Aliso–”









The creak of a sofa, the plastic sound of a TV remote, the mutters of an old and dying man. He was alone, all alone. And so Prince Phillip did what Prince Phillip always does when he is left home alone: ‘watch Babestation until he falls asleep in a thin pool of his own weak jizz’.



Tuh-THUNK. Tuh-THUNK. He lifted one condemned leg in front of the other. Tuh. He put his condemned foot down. THUNK. “Man,” he thought, smoking his final cigarette. “Man, I wish I never killed that schoolteacher.” He opened his hands around his face like a sunflower. “I really probably regret that, now.” Somewhere, on the horizon, the lasers awaited him.




The birds knew. The birds were tuned to it. In the hours after The Bullet first landed, the birds started scattering to the wind, assembling in clots. The pigeons all but disappeared. The doves released short-sightedly as a sign of peace by a pilgrimage of Stone Henge hippies pulled a manoeuvre that scientists reviewing the footage later described as, ‘Not even, like, at all possible, within, like, the laws of physics“. You ever seen a flock of kestrels? No such thing exists. Exquisitely singular beasts. And yet, on every roundabout north of Watford, there they were, huddled, assembled, grey and waiting. “Ka-kaw,” said the kestrels. “Ka-kaw KA-KAW KA-KAW!”




“… And, of course, London welcomes its other worldly visitors – on the caveat that they fill in the appropriate repatriation forms and actively look for work, and that they do not shoot us with lasers or affect house prices – and we, uh, look forward to working closely with them to learn the secrets of their impenetrable, bulletproof armours and their powers of interstellar flight, and so yes. Good. Welcome.”


“No we will not be offering up any members of the British public as human sacrifice, no.”


“They will have to seek retroactive planning permission for their gargantuan alien craft, yes.”


“Probably have to relocate it to the Olympic Park anyway.”


“Um, sorry, is that hum getting a touch more unbearable for anybody else?”


“It’s just there seems to be a shrieking in my skull that won’t go away.”


“Anyone else getting that?”




“Why are you all cowering?”


“Who’s shining that blue light?”





And the door of The Bullet opened, and everything turned to dust, and a light shone from within, and The Pinned Man finally expired, and lasers shone weakly to the pavement, and bowels were evacuated, and The Bullet folded in on itself – neatly, like a hankerchief, storey by storey by storey – and up high, a clear noise now, from within, a clear noise like a voice sang in the ears and in the minds of those assembled, with shitty pants and drumming heartbeats: Star Trek 3 in 3D, the voice said. In cinemas March 15.

—November 29th, 2013

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